#55 Air Force Football 2016 Preview

Air Force Falcons
Overall Rank: #55
#3 Mountain West
The expectations are rising for Air Force. In 2015, the Falcons won the Mountain Division and played San Diego State in the Mountain West title game. The Falcons lost that game and followed it up with a 55-36 loss to California in the Armed Forces Bowl, so it was not the perfect way to end the year, but an eight win season and trip to the title game is a very good accomplishment for a program in the same division as Boise State.
2015 Record: 8-6, 6-2
2015 Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl vs. California (L 36-55)
Coach: Troy Calhoun (67-50 at Air Force, 67-50 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Thiessen
Defensive Coordinator: Steve Russ
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jacobi Owens, RB, 1,092 yards
Passing: Nate Romine, QB, 143 yards
Receiving: Jalen Robinette, WR, 641 yards
Tackles: Weston Steehammer, S, 80
Sacks: D.J. Dunn, LB, 5.5
Interceptions: Weston Steelhammer, S, 5
Other Key Returnees: RB Tim McVey, RB D.J. Johnson, DB Roland Ladipo, DB Brodie Hicks, LB Grant Ross, LB Claude Alexander III, P/K Luke Strebel
Key Losses: QB Karson Roberts, WR Garrett Brown, OL A.J. Ruechel, DL Alex Hansen
Air Force ranked third in the MW in scoring defense, allowing just 25.5 points per game. The unit is extremely aggressive and will spend a lot of time in the opposing backfield. However, a lot of that pressure came from end Alex Hansen and he will not be easy to replace. There are quite a few options at the end spots, led by Ryan Watson, so the Falcons should still be able to get a solid push from their front line. Linebackers D.J. Dunn and Claude Alexander can get into the backfield too. The pass defense was the weak point of the defense in 2015, especially late in the season when the Falcons started giving up way too many points. Strong safety Weston Steelhammer is one of the best in the conference. He led Air Force with 80 tackles and five interceptions last season. When he was kicked out of the bowl game, Air Force fell apart and it became obvious how important Steelhammer is to this team. Cornerback Roland Lapido is a star, but somebody needs to step up opposite of him.
As always, Air Force is going to rack up a lot of yards on the ground. Jacobi Owens returns after rushing for 1,092 yards and seven touchdowns. The offense will run through Owens, especially this year while Air Force searches for a new quarterback. Karson Roberts did a solid job running the offense, rushing for 743 yards and ten touchdowns and throwing for 1,595 yards and 11 scores. Nate Romine is a solid signal caller and knows how to run the offense, but he missed last season with a knee injury and it remains to be seen if he will be ready to go come opening day. But if Romine is ready, he will have Jalen Robinette to work with. Robinette is a big 6-4 receiver who caught 26 passes for 641 yards and five touchdowns last year. Robinette is a great receiver on a team that does not throw the ball very often. When they do though, Robinette can make the most of the opportunity. The bigger concern for the offense though is on the line. Breaking in a new quarterback and three new starters on the line is tough for an option offense.
The Bottom Line:
The Falcons have a lot to be excited about this season and their toughest conference opponents have to come to Colorado Springs. On November 12th Colorado State comes to town and the season ends on November 25th with Boise State. San Diego State is also not on the schedule so that is a good thing for Air Force. If the offense can get past their potential issues at quarterback and on the line, this is an Air Force team that will compete for another Mountain Division title.
Projected Bowl: Hawaii Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 319.1 (4th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 131.9 (122, 12)
Total Offense: 451.1 (33, 2)
Scoring Offense: 33.8 (39, 2)
Rushing Defense: 144.7 (36, 3)
Pass Defense: 210.1 (46, 8)
Total Defense: 354.9 (32, 4)
Scoring Defense: 25.5 (48, 3)
Turnover Margin: -0.36 (98, 8)
Sacks: 2.64 (23, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 0.21 (1, 1)


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